Explore and more in Wadebridge

PUBLISHED: 16:27 04 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:29 20 February 2013

PHOTO: ©Kevin Britland/Alamy

PHOTO: ©Kevin Britland/Alamy

A cyclists's paradise, this historic town also has art, music and good food on its CV, as Lesley Double discovers

A cyclists paradise, this historic town also has art, music and good food on its CV, as Lesley Double discovers

Best known for

Back in the 14th century, Wadebridge consisted of two parishes, Egloshayle and St Breock, on either side of the River Camel. These parishes contained two churches, so those crossing, or wading, from one side of the river to the other could give thanks for a safe crossing. Realising that they were losing too many sheep and shepherds in the fast-flowing waters, in 1460 the Reverend Lovibond arranged for a bridge to be built, and thus the two parishes became one and Wadebridge was born. Legend has it that the bridge was built on sacks of wool, but this probably sprang from money given by wool merchants in order to safeguard their businesses. Today there are two bridges across the river: the beautiful old bridge still stands in the centre of the town and a modern bridge carries traffic along the A39 Atlantic Highway, bypassing the town altogether.

Simple pleasures

Wadebridge must surely be the most cycle-friendly town in the whole of Cornwall! There are bike shops aplenty, many of which hire out all kinds of bicycles for the day or week. Whether you are cycling solo or with your family, you can hire single or tandem bikes, or bikes with back seats for toddlers, in all sizes and with helmets and panniers too should you so desire. Costs are very reasonable, and what better way to enjoy the scenery than to cycle along the Camel Trail. This relatively flat track was once a railway line, until the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, but whereas manylines around the country were abandoned, the Camel Trail has been successfully restored to be used by all for walking, cycling and jogging. Wadebridge luckily sits near the middle of the Trail, with Padstow one way and Bodmin the other. There are plenty of places to stop en route, and a purpose-built hide between Wadebridge and Padstow is a favourite with birdwatchers.

Hidden treasures

Twenty years ago, the old railway station was turned into the John Betjeman Centre, part museum and part coffee lounge. In the memorabilia room, there are some of Sir Johns personal effects and academic honours, as well as a selection of his furniture. Books, videos, postcards and mementoes are for sale in the tiny shop. The coffee lounge serves light refreshments, which can be enjoyed in the large sun lounge when the weather permits.

Hot tips

June Cornall works at Granny Wobblys Fudge Pantry, a delightfully colourful shop full of boxes and bags of handmade fudge. June came to Cornwall in 1975 and loves Wadebridge. My favourite place to eat is The Granary restaurant in MolesworthStreet. Its really friendly. You can get a good meal at any time of the day or evening and the owner, John, is always ready to come and have a chat with you, says June.
Joshua Plowman works at Bike Smart Hire in Eddystone Road. This is his third season in the shop and he mainly deals with tourists and large family groups who wish to hire the bikes. Im a fairly sporty person, says Joshua. I run a six-a-side football team called Chudleigh United, and we practise every week on the Playing Fields. When Im not playing football, I like to play golf. I go to St Kew, where the course has beautiful views over the Camel estuary, or to Rock, which is quite hilly.

Out of town

Just a few miles from Wadebridge is Prideaux Place, a historic Elizabethan manor house that looks down over Padstow. Prideaux family origins date to the 11th century, with 14 generations living in the manor since 1592. It has 81 rooms, 46 of which are bedrooms. Tours are available round the house, and light lunches and cream teas can be taken in the Terrace Tea Room. The fabulously restored gardens play host to summer concerts, such as the Midsummer Music evening where the audience is encouraged to bring a picnic. The manor has been used as a location for many films and television programmes Coming Home, Wycliffe and Most Haunted, to name but three. Prideaux Place even has its own star: Me Too is a small bear and his adventures are documented in a book by Carmen Hocking, which is sold to raise funds for restoration of the garden and manor.

Arts, crafts & entertainment

There are several art shops and galleries in Molesworth Street, including Artycrafts, Cottage Crafts and Gallery, Tristans Gallery and Victoria Antiques. Penny McBreens handware, stoneware and porcelain can be found at Eglos Pottery, just over the bridge in Egloshayle.
Wadebridge takes its folk music seriously: not only is there an annual Folk Festival during August, but various instruments associated with folk music, such as banjos and accordions, are for sale in Hobgoblin Music in Polmorla Walk. The staff are always happy to talk to genuine folk enthusiasts.

Food for thought

There are many different styles and cuisines in the town. Try theGlasshouse in Eddystone Road where you can sit in the partially covered outside terrace when the weather is fine. Most of the bread, pasta and cakes at the Orchard Restaurant in Polmorla Road are made in-house. As the names suggest, the Dancing Taipan serves Cantonese and Chinese food and the Raj Bar and Restaurant serves Indian. Hustyns Restaurant and Caf Lounge has its own vegetable garden on site, which provides the kitchen with fresh food throughout the year. And, for a very special meal, a trip to Nathan Outlaws Seafood and Grill at Rock is a must. For the best locally produced and grown food, the Wadebridge Country Market takes place on a Thursday morning between 7.45am and 12 noon in the Town Hall.

Family fun

Theres plenty to do at the Playing Fields, with tennis, bowling, football and rugby, and a park for the children with acres of space for them to run around. Cornwalls Crealy Adventure Park is at Tredinnick, just off the A39 between Newquay, Padstow and Wadebridge. With theme park rides, indoor and outdoor fun, and visits by Postman Pat and Sportacus, theres something for everyone: you can even camp there in August!
Pick up a free Local-eyes booklet in the Tourist Information Centre and see what else is on for families.

Wadebridge Events

9-11 June
Royal Cornwall Show
More than just an agricultural event, now in its 218th year

17 June
Midsummer Music 2011
Penzance Rotary Club is organising this event at Prideaux Place, with the FAB Beatles and Helston School Jazz Orchestra. Bring a picnic! 01841 521148

19 June
Fathers Day
My Dad, My Hero special deals at Crealy Adventure Park

7 July
Race For Life
Wadebridge girls walk, jog or run 5k in aid of cancer research

26-29 August
Wadebridge Folk Festival
Barron Brady, Stompin Dave Allen and others

Getting there

By road: On the A39 between St Columb Major and Camelford, or the A389 from Bodmin.
By air: Approximately 12 miles from Newquay Airport.

By rail: The nearest railway station is Bodmin

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